Q. Does a stroke affect the heart? A. Not directly. The heart uses blood vessels just like the brain, but some heart conditions can cause small clots to form possibly traveling to the brain. A stroke or “Brain Attack” is a type of vascular disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. A stroke occurs when an artery that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain bursts or (more commonly) becomes blocked by a clot. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the oxygen and nutrients it needs, so it starts to die.